Rogers Group at 100
The real backbone of Rogers’ business, though, remained crushed stone. “All of the other enterprises we entered were outlets to sell stone from one of our quarries,” Sieboldt said. “The sand and gravel, the ready-mix concrete, the hot-mix asphalt, and the construction businesses were all for this purpose primarily. Each company helped to feed the others by providing a market for some product from another Rogers enterprise.”
As President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed bills in 1954 and 1957, authorizing funding for the interstate highway system, Rogers saw an opportunity to improve the nation’s infrastructure and its business.
The interstate boom spurred numerous public works projects, and Rogers Group handled several major projects on what would later be known as the Eisenhower Interstate System. Among those projects were portions of all four major Tennessee highway arteries I-24, I-40, I-65, and I-75. Regardless of whether they actually laid pavement, the interstate system and related road work has kept Rogers Group employees busy for 50 years.
All in the family
Ralph Rogers never planned for his grandsons to enter the family business, but like their grandfather, the next generation set its own course. Rogers stepped down from day-to-day operations in 1967. At the time, grandson Rick Rechter worked in the company while he attended Purdue University, but his older twin brothers, Ben R. and Sam, both worked for other companies. Ben worked his way up the corporate ladder at a metal distribution company in Alabama, and Sam worked for an electrical equipment distributor in Chicago. However, when Rick asked for their help in running the company upon Rogers’ retirement, the twins responded.
Although the Rechter brothers were relatively young men when they took over operations, they had amassed a good bit of education. Rick knew the Rogers operations inside and out, while Ben and Sam offered fresh perspectives from their experience in other fields. Those insights and educational experiences became vital assets as the company faced the tough economic times ahead.
Meeting economic challenges
Although the mid-1970s into the 1980s was extremely difficult for businesses of all types, road builders were hit particularly hard.
Just as Rogers always believed in hiring good people, the Rechters looked for outside help in guiding the company through these tough times. Their search led them to New York City where they found Bob Adelman, former chief financial officer for Rockefeller Financial. He agreed to work with the Rechters as a consultant to help solve the short-term crisis and put together a forward-looking business plan. Eventually, the Rechters asked Adelman to move from consultant to chief executive officer to help oversee the implementation of the changes he recommended. Adelman accepted and served as CEO of Rogers Group for four years, with the Rechter brothers serving as co-presidents of the company.
With a clearer, revised infrastructure and a renewed sense of cooperation throughout the company, the company was on its way to recovery. By the end of 1988, the company’s finances were in positive territory.
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